Recruiting 2009 - Stories, Trends & Tidbits
Posted Feb 6, 2009

From the kitten fight between Lane Kiffin and Urban Meyer, to Nebraska not getting Nebraska kids, to the dominance of the SEC and Ohio State, to the emergence of UCLA, to the new powers on the college football landscape, plenty of big things happened this recruiting season. Pete Fiutak breaks down the key stories, trends, and tidbits.

Fiu's Daily Cavalcade of Whimsy

Recruiting Trends & Tidbits ... Feb. 6

a.k.a. Frank Costanza's Festivus Airing of the Grievances ... or the obvious attempt to keep readers coming to the site on a regular basis during the off-season.
By Pete Fiutak   
What's your beef? ... Fire off your thoughts  

Past Whimsies:  
- Making peace with recruiting
- The NFL announcers
- The Mark Sanchez situation
- The NFL Playoffs vs. The BCS
- Why Florida really is No. 1
- The Jagodzinski situation
- Auburn's big coaching moves
- 10 Reasons Why Fla Will Win
10 Reasons Why OU Will Win
- The Andre Smith suspension
- NFL Mock Draft (top 10 picks)
- Holiday Wish List For All 119 Teams

- Chizik, Gill, & the Race Card
- Why Paterno isn't too old

Past Whimsies

- 2008 Season
- 2008 Preseason Cavalcade
- 2007 Season
- 2006 Season

The C.O.W. airing of the grievances followed by the feats of strength
So what the heck actually happened this recruiting season that really mattered? How does all of this madness actually translate to the real world of college football? Trying to make sense of it all, here’s the impact, trends and nuggets following the 2009 Signing Day.

10. Game on … It’s football time in Tennessee
Call it a publicity stunt, call it silliness, call it a welcome to the SEC, junior, moment.

Tennessee’s Lane Kiffin complained, accused and whined about Florida and head coach Urban Meyer allegedly calling WR Nu’Keese Richardson over and over again when he was visiting Knoxville. Richardson eventually signed with Tennessee, but that didn’t stop Kiffin from accusing Meyer and Florida of cheating, only to later take it back and apologize after being scolded by the SEC.

There are three things that don’t last long. Dogs that chase cars, pro golfers who chip for pars, and SEC coaches who don’t/can’t tweak, cajole, stretch, and massage the recruiting rules to their outer limits. In the kill and be killed world of the SEC, Kiffin had better get used to the ruthless life in the big boy league and he’ll have to get used to everyone trying to dance with his dates.

Of course, the young Tennessee head coach also fired this shot as the first statement in the somewhat dormant Volunteer-Gator rivalry. Why not fire up the fan base? Why not stir the hornet’s nest and inject a little nastiness back into it?

Tennessee, despite playing for the SEC title two years ago, hasn’t been in the hunt for a national championship in years and has slipped below Florida, LSU, Alabama and Georgia in the overall pecking order of SEC teams. Kiffin, at the very least, is showing that he intends to be a fighter and that he’s not going to bow down and kiss the Meyer ring, or rings. However, this could backfire in a big way in the immediate future.

Tennessee isn’t there yet; it’s still going to need another season or two to be anywhere near the juggernaut that Meyer has put together in Florida, and last year, after Georgia poked the bear with is fancy dance celebration thing in the 2007 win over the Gators, got stomped on last season by Meyer’s ultra-focused, ultra-motivated team.

If nothing else, the SEC just got a whole bunch more fun. Like it needed to be more competitive.

9. It’s the SEC’s world and everyone else is just paying rent
Florida came up with a recruiting class of top-shelf talents that would’ve been an all-timer haul for about 90 other schools. Its class probably isn’t among the top six in the SEC this year.

Alabama crushed and killed for a second straight recruiting season, putting a fence around the state for the top talent, while getting just about everyone it wanted to after cranking out a class in 2008 that helped pave the way to a terrific season. When all is said and done, LSU might have come up with the nation’s best class, Georgia got its usual stockpile of talent, Tennessee and Lane Kiffin did a great job with a relatively limited time to work, and Arkansas, Ole Miss, and Mississippi State all came up with classes that would’ve been considered the best, or close to it, in most of the other conferences. Vanderbilt is Vanderbilt, academic restrictions are always going to be an issue, but everyone else loaded up. So if you’re sick and tired of the SEC ruling college football, go follow the NHL. The SEC is going to be the top dog on the block for a long, long time after the talent it brought in once again.

8. "Can’t repeat the past? … Why of course you can!"
What is with Missouri loading up on players with the same foppish, dandy names? There was the Chase fetish of the last few years with Chase Daniel, Chase Coffman and backup quarterback Chase Patton. Now, in an attempt to make sure they always have a quarterback with a name straight out of an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, the Tigers picked up quarterback Blaine “Yo Gabba” Gabbert. Just in case he gets hurt or doesn’t pan out, and they need a spare Blaine, they made sure to sign Blaine Dalton to compete for the future starting quarterback gig.

7. And no, Sam Gilbert is nowhere in sight.
Rick Neuheisel came to UCLA and explicitly stated that his alma mater was going to step up and go toe-to-toe with USC for players in an attempt to level the playing field. After a disastrous 2008 season, and with the Trojans in the argument for the national title, again, it seemed like a perfect time, at least for one more season, for the gap to stay Pasadena-to-the-Coliseum wide between the two rivals. But Neuheisel, assistant coach Norm Chow, and the rest of the staff rocked the Casbah with a tremendous class full of talent all across the board. While USC got a few more sure-thing NFL starters than UCLA, the Bruins came up with more well-above-average players and hooked up with some next level talents of their own.

Morrell Presley might be the nation’s best tight end, and will be a killer with a little time in the weight room. OG Xavier Su’a-Filo, DE Keenan Graham, CB Marlon Pollard, and WR Randall Carroll are just a few of the star prospects that normally would’ve looked at USC first, second, and fourth in the recruiting process. They’re all headed to Westwood, and Neuheisel and his program were in the running for several other four and five star talents, most notably Notre Dame signee, LB Manti Te’o.

With that said, it should be noted that USC still came up with a phenomenal class in what was generally considered a down year. Just offering a scholarship isn’t instantly closing the deal for Pete Carroll and his staff like it used to, but still, S T.J. McDonald, DE Devon Kennard, DT Hebron Fangupo and C John Martinez are all going to make a lot of money in the near future (keep your Reggie Bush comments to yourself), while QB Matt Barkley could end up making USC’s 2009 recruiting season a whopper all by himself if he turns out to be the star he’s projected to become.

6. The new stars of the show
While several programs (like Stanford, Mississippi State, and Maryland) rose up and made stunning splashes from out of the blue this recruiting season, two programs stood out from the rest: South Florida and North Carolina.

Jim Leavitt has always been a true believer in his South Florida program, some would say he’s a bit wackadoodle, and his frenetic energy is paying off in generating a buzz by making Tampa a hot place to go. If you thought the USF defense has been strong in the past, that was nothing compared to what’s coming.

Remember, players like George Selvie, Ben Moffit, and other USF defensive stars weren’t necessarily top-shelf recruits. That’s not the case this season with JUCO transfer Jason Pierre-Paul a ready-made NFL defensive end coming in this class, JUCO transfer Leslie Stirrups a special defensive tackle, and in the coup of coups, DE Ryne Giddens picked USF when he could’ve gone anywhere he wanted to. Throw in top-shelf prospects like linebackers DeDe Lattimore, Chase Griffiths and Sam Barrington into the mix, along with defensive backs Kayvon Webster and Ricardo Dixon, and USF should be the beast of the Big East in the near future.

South Florida is putting together an SEC-level defense; North Carolina is putting together a national title team. Butch Davis came up with a whopper of a class last year, but that was nothing compared to this year as he put a fence around the state of North Carolina and reeled in stars like DE Donte Moss, LBs Justin Dixon and Hawatha Bell, CB Terry Shankle and WR Jheranie Boyd, who all likely would’ve been picked off by other ACC schools, or a few SEC teams, in the past. Add in four-star prospects like QB Bryn Renner, OT Brennan Williams, OG Johnnie Farms, and S Donavan Tate, and North Carolina is quickly becoming special. Give it one more year and this might be a BCS championship-level team, however …

5. Are the coaches going to be around? … The prospects don’t seem to care
Out of the 120 FBS teams, how many have head coaches who have been there for five years or more (including those going into their fifth seasons)? 51. The odds are overwhelming that more than half of the current head coaches won’t be at their current schools five years from now, when this year’s recruiting class is set to graduate. Of course, there are always some shockers in the mix, no one ever thought the tremendous Penn State recruiting class of 2005 was going to finish its career with Joe Paterno at the helm, but there are some coaching situations that didn’t seen to matter much to some of the top prospects out there this year.

Butch Davis isn’t going to be the North Carolina head coach in 2013. Just ask the Miami Hurricanes of the early 2000s about what Davis tells a team about his future and what he actually does. Jim Harbaugh isn’t going to be at Stanford for more than another cup of coffee, especially if he has any success on the field this year. He’s destined for a much bigger job. Is Urban Meyer going to be at Florida for another five years? How about Mark Richt at Georgia is his teams keep coming up short and if the rest of the SEC keeps on winning national title? Steve Spurrier will turn 64 this year. Is he going to coach until he’s 69?

And then there’s Charlie Weis.   

Even with this year’s great recruiting class, it’s BCS or bust for his tenure. This year’s haul of recruits aren’t going to pay off right away, so is LB Manti Te’o, who’s planning on taking two years off at some point for an LDS Church mission, going to have the same head coach six years from now? What is he goes on his mission this year? Will he even have Weis as his coach when he begins his career?

Welcome to the world of negative recruiting. All these prospects know all of this, many have heard it from other schools. They simply tuned it all out.

4. Nebraska and the need for farm hands
When Bo Pelini took over at Nebraska, or was able to lease it out from Tom Osborne, he made a big deal about how Nebraska wouldn’t be Nebraska again until it made sure it went back to its roots and built the program back up with in-state kids who might not have a ton of talent, but would bust their tails and ask for more at the chance to play for their dream school. Even Sports Illustrated bought into the rhetoric with a feature story about how the Huskers were going to get the job done with kids plucked off the farm.

Yeah, right.

While the in-state walk-ons will be part of the mix, the PR garbage slung by Pelini and everyone around the program to make Nebraskans feel all squishy went right out the window this recruiting season. How many Nebraskans were signed to scholarships?


Nebraska signed eight players from California, six from Texas, along with getting players from Florida, Colorado, Maryland, and North Dakota … and there’s nothing wrong with that.

3. The 2009 Player Who Needs To Be A Rock Star From Day One Is …
Tate Forcier, QB Michigan. Rich Rodriguez did a nice job of putting together a strong recruiting class despite last year’s epic disaster of a debut, but his year two will be totally reliant one very talented young player from San Diego.

The quarterback situation last season was a nightmare as part of an offense that sputtered and coughed all season long. Rodriguez needed Terrelle Pryor to sign, it didn’t happen, and the rest is history. Now, the Michigan coaching staff will say all the right things about the quarterback job being open for competition, and it’ll do everything possible to take the pressure off the true freshman, but it might be Forcier or bust this season. How many other quarterbacks did Michigan sign? As many as Michigan has wins over Ohio State in the last five years. Which leads to Michigan’s bigger problem …

2. Ohio State is going to be even better
If you thought three straight BCS game losses and a diminished national reputation would matter to star prospects in the state of Ohio, think again. The Ohio State University didn’t just load up on in-state talent, it got a few stars from Florida (although WR Duron Carter, Cris Carter’s son, was a given), and plucked away some key players from Pennsylvania. It’s not just that Ohio State came up with the nation’s best recruiting class; it’s that its class is head-and-shoulders better than anyone else in the conference. Penn State did a good job, but the talent level going to Columbus and going to, say, Madison or Minneapolis, isn’t even comparable. And don’t even get started with the disparity between the OSU recruiting class and Michigan’s. In other words, if you’re sick of Ohio State mucking up your BCS, get used to it.

Fine, so Ohio State is good, we all knew that, but here’s the problem on a national level. If Ohio State is so much better than the rest of the Big Ten, it’ll be able to roll through a relatively easy conference schedule year after year. That means more and more BCS Championship appearances unless the BCS decides to put in a two-loss team from another conference over a one-loss Buckeye team. And if OSU goes unbeaten, and there aren’t two other unbeaten BCS teams, it’s going to be playing for the national title no matter what. You can stop drooling now, SEC fans. 

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The Insanity And Silliness Of Recruiting & Signing Day